Saturday, March 31, 2012

Rokker - Rock Fever

A1. Rock Fever

A2. Daddy! Whatcha Doin' To My Sister

A3. Tall Girls

B2. Flames Across The Sky

B3. Who's A Punk? Your Mother!

B5. Pigeon Hole Wankers

ROKKER (Austin, TX)
Rock Fever LP
Owl (911-74), 1979

Born in Small Town USA, the Jolly Rokkers were a four-piece group that played sped up renditions of 50's rock n roll standards through loud amplifiers. In 1977 they rearranged the line-up and changed their name to Slammer. Playing wherever they could pick up gigs around their hometown of Nampa, ID, they eventually booked a cross-country tour which brought them out to New Mexico and across Texas to Louisiana where they ran out of money.

They ended up settling in Austin where a thriving punk scene was in full swing. The band, which then consisted of Johnny Rokker on guitar and vocals, Lil Christine on vocals and harmonica, Zach Smith on bass/vocals and Davey Andrews on drums, again took on a new identity, this time calling themselves simply Rokker. They were spontaneous and rarely ever rehearsed. They booked as many clubs as they could but often got thrown out after their first set.

In 1979 they were ready to record a full length album. But none of the studios in Austin would work with them, so they found a place in San Antonio that let them lay down the tracks live to tape. It was all done in a single take with the songs being recorded one after another. Afterward, the engineer broke the songs up and played them over the studio speakers. Satisfied with what they heard, they yelled "Fuck the wankers!" and darted home to get drunk.

The album is a ripper to say the least, featuring upbeat rockers like "Tall Girls" and their stellar anthem, "Rock Fever." Vocals bring to mind Danzig on the ballad-like "Flames Across The Sky" and Richard Hell on the chorus of "Pigeon Hole Wankers." It was released on the band's own Owl Records in an edition of 1,000 copies and evidently sold out very quickly besides a small, now-dwindled band member stash.

After the record came out, Zach left the band and moved out to California. Keith Ayres, who had been in the original Jolly Rokkers and Slammer line-ups came out to Austin to fill in. Later on, Davey left as well, so their manager Frank Stewart (who had also designed their album cover) jumped on the drums and started banging.

By the early 80s the Austin music scene was changing and punk rock was being replaced by country roots and blues bands. Rokker played their final gig at the Gaslight in 1981.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Manual Scan - Plan Of Action

A1. Nothing You Can Do

A2. American Way

A3. New Difference

B1. Anymore

B2. Jungle Beat

Plan Of Action EP
Dance And Stance (DS-101), 1983

In 1977, a group of music minded kids at La Jolla High School that were influenced by AM pop radio started meeting in the music hall to play together. Out of this assembly came a band called Starjammer (an X-Men reference), which featured a 14-year old female drummer named Terry Moore, guitarists Bart Mendoza and Kevin Donaker-Ring, and a bass player named David Gardner.

The band started off playing house parties and had to cater to the demands of the crowds, primarily doing cover music by bands like the Kinks, Yardbirds, Beatles, Zombies, and Paul Revere, as well as Motown and R&B standards. They later added a couple members, Yvonne Simon on vocals and guitar, and Larry Sherman on keyboards. When their drummer Terry wasn't able to play a lunchtime "gig" in their school's music room, Paul Brewin stepped in as her replacement. It was around that time in late 1979 that they changed their name to the Pedestrians.

The Pedestrians played together for about a year and were very active. But Larry left the group after they recorded some home demos and by early 1981 the band had parted ways. Shortly thereafter, Bart and Kevin formed a new group with a drummer named Paul Kaufman, and then a bassist named David Fleminger came on board soon after that. They met David, who went to a rival high school, a few months earlier at a Pedestrians show. Yvonne completed the line-up.

They called the new group Manual Scan, which was chosen after opening a Radio Shack catalog and dropping a finger on a police scanner that had automatic or manual scan. They naturally levitated to a mod sound, having already acquired the look by wearing sharp suits and boots inspired by their heroes, the Zombies, and of course the Beatles. They were also fixated with scooters and mod culture.

Bart become the primary songwriter of the band, though the other members made contributions as well. They started playing the club circuit in San Diego and the LA/Hollywood area. They also received steady work doing school functions and teen dances. The band recorded some rough demos before hooking up with Peter English, who owned Kings Road Cafe, a club that proved to be a big game changer in the San Diego music scene. Peter became the band's manager and funded the recording and release of the first Manual Scan EP.

They went to Circle Sound Studios in the fall of 1982. By this time Yvonne had left the group and Paul Brewin was back on drums. Since the songs all clocked in at two minutes or less, they opted to make an EP rather than a single. Though the record was named Plan Of Action, they couldn't get a good recording of the title track. Instead they laid down a tune that Bart had written the night before called "Nothing You Can Do." The session was done in a single evening and they were thrilled to have it produced by one of their biggest influences, Scott Harrington, of legendary San Diego group The Penetrators.

1,000 copies of the 7" were pressed in early 1983 with a Lichtenstein-esque pop art cover. It was put out on Peter's Dance And Stance label, becoming the sole release under that imprint. Peter lined up distribution with Faulty Products, an offshoot of IRS, and the records moved quickly. The band recorded a video for each of the five songs from the EP on a local cable access TV show. They received very positive press from local papers and even Trouser Press.

By 1984 the band was traveling a lot more and became regulars in the Bay area. As time progressed, they improved as musicians, got better equipment, and their sound evolved as their influences expanded. They incurred more line-up changes over the years. Further releases would come out including an LP in 1985 on the Hi-lo label out of the UK, as well as 7"s on Get Hip and Susstones. They were approached by several major labels including Enigma, IRS and RCA, but most of them either wanted certain members to leave the band or song lyrics to be changed, so ultimately they favored to stick with independent labels.

In 1989, the song "Nothing Can Be Everything" was included in a movie called A Girl To Kill For and was actually played in its entirety. By 1991, the music scene had changed. People weren't going out to shows like they used to. The goal of the band had always been to have a good time, but after 10 years they felt they'd done all they could do and simply split up.

Bart ended up joining a group called the Shambles and has been playing with them for the past 20 years. You could keep up with them here.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Backseat Romeos - No Ambition

A. Zero Ambition

B. In The Night

BACKSEAT ROMEOS (Lincolnshire, England, UK)
Zero Ambition b/w In The Night
Future Earth (FER-007), 1980

While in college, John Clay and some friends decided they wanted to start a band. After deciding who would play what, they went out and got instruments and proceeded to learn the rudiments. The band, which formed in 1972 was called Nebulah. They did a mix of covers and original material. From there, John found himself in a folk rock band called Terra Pax. Influenced by the guitar workings of Mick Ronson and Bill Nelson, he began coming up with licks in that vein.

He later joined a band called Seagull that started off doing covers but gradually worked originals into their set. They gigged all over the midlands in the UK for a few years, and then punk hit. John joined a group which was oddly enough called Six Pistons. Doing mostly fun punk-influenced rock, the project was short-lived following the departure of the drummer and singer. Bassist Ash Aisthorpe decided to bring in an old drummer acquaintance named Mick Freer. The new three piece group with John, Ash and Mick called themselves The Classics.

It was 1979 and the band started off playing primarily punk, power pop and new wave covers. In time John started writing original material which was mostly straight forward power pop. Eventually they phased out the majority of the covers, leaving only the most popular ones such as the Jam's "Down In The Tube Station At Midnight" and "First Time" by the Boys. The band played lots of gigs in Yorkshire and Lincolnshire, building themselves a strong fanbase over a 50 mile radius.

They practiced frequently. Typically John would come up with the basic song ideas (the structure, lyrics, and melodies), and bring them to rehearsal where Ash and Mick would help form them into completed songs. It came to their attention that another band in the area was going by the name The Classics, so they changed theirs to Backseat Romeos, which was the title of one of their songs.

Without having a booking agent or label support, John would sneak into empty offices at work to make calls to venues to try and get them gigs. At one point he was able to book them a short tour which got a mention in NME, but they never landed themselves on a bill with a large act. Nonetheless, they did catch the attention of Future Earth Records who signed the band.

In 1980, they went to Fairview Music in Hull to record two songs for a single. Since Future Earth had a limited budget, the band had to record and mix the songs in a single day. Being well prepared, they banged it out quickly. The only trouble they had was getting the right guitar tone, which they attest came out thinner than they had hoped due to the engineer wanting them to play at a low volume.

1,000 copies of the single were pressed. Future Earth did little to promote the record or get it reviewed, though it did get played on BBCs Radio 1 program. The DJ made a comment to the effect of "it won't be a hit." Sure enough, it wasn't. But still, "Zero Ambition" stands up today as a power pop classic and the single was even reissued on 1977 Records in Japan.

The band went through a couple line-up adjustments over the duration of their existence. At one point they brought in a second guitar player named Steve Robinson. When he left the band, they brought in a keyboard player named Shaun Ashworth who stayed around for about a year. Later on, Mick would leave the band and was replaced by Trev Fearnley, who John had played with in Seagull. That line-up took them in a more rock, less punk direction, and ultimately they split within six months. The band played a few reunion gigs about 10 years ago, going under their original name The Classics.

Monday, March 12, 2012

The Imposters - Inside My Head

A. Inside My Head

B. King Of America

IMPOSTERS (Sonoma County, CA)
Inside My Head b/w King Of America
Dublab (DS-003), 1983

The Imposters formed as a three-piece in Sonoma County in 1978. They built a strong following in the Bay area, playing alongside bands like Crime, the Avengers, Dead Kennedys and the Dils. Their first release was the "Night Time TV" EP on 415 Records, which was followed up in 1980 with the "Don't Get Mad" single on the same label.

1980 also saw the release of a compilation album called Alive! Rock City that featured two Imposters tracks. Then another song, "Sounds On The Street," appeared on a 1981 compilation called Rising Stars Of San Francisco. The band spent their time touring up and down the west coast and even made their way out to Texas, playing Austin and Dallas.

1983 marked the release of their first LP, Mask. Two songs from the album were released as a single. The A-Side, "Inside My Head," is an infectiously poppy track that is sure to get stuck inside your head, while the reggae-twinged flipside, "King Of America" sways more in the direction of "Watching The Detectives."

The record received heavy air play across the States, but the band ended up splitting in November of that year.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

The Rockers - Self Titled EP

A1. I Want To Tell You

A2. Come Back

B1. Don't Leave Me Tonight

B2. Understanding

THE ROCKERS (San Francisco, CA)
Self Titled EP
Alcatraz (AS-28001), 1980

John Perga played in his first band, The Village Raiders, in 1966. It was then in San Mateo, CA that he was introduced to brothers Phillip and Dennis Schraub. All three were very heavily influenced by British Invasion bands, strong vocal harmonies, and the high production value of those 60's recordings.

They formed their first band together in the Spring of 1967 with John singing, Phil on guitar, Dennis on drums and a bass player named Parker Jones. Originally called The Druids, they changed their name to The Mood by 1968 and put out a short-run single that had covers of the Move's "Night Of Fear" on one side and the Small Faces' "Put Yourself Together" on the flip. After that, they replaced Parker with a bass player named Don Ruiz and changed their name to Lompoc. Though they rehearsed quite a bit with this line-up, they only played a few shows before parting ways.

A couple years later Phil and John started writing songs again. They recorded some demos to shop around in hopes of getting duo acoustic gigs. They played the rough tape to Phil's brother Dennis who then decided to work with them in his newly built 4-track home studio. Dennis played the drums, engineered the sessions, and then mixed it all into completed song. Though they named the project Smash, they never played shows or went any further with it.

Then in 1977, John and Phil finally decided to put an active live band together. They focused on writing power pop tunes with melodies that incorporated two and three-part harmonies. By this time Dennis was married and focusing on his career as an engineer, so he was in no position to join the band. They ended up recruiting a drummer named George Hastings who had previously played in a band with Phil. And then George brought in Carl Jeppesen on bass to complete the line-up. At last, their hope of bringing loud, powerful pop to the live stage was finally coming to fruition.

At the time, John was working as a jeweler and given the stage name Johnny Rock, which in turn led to the band being known as Johnny Rock and the Rockers. But after just a few gigs they decided to shorten it to simply, The Rockers. Around that time an executive decision was made which forced George out of the band. They put up an ad and found Bryan Allinsmith, a harder hitting drummer who had just left a band called Rage and better fit the bill.

The Rockers would primarily play shows in the Bay area at clubs like the Palms Cafe, International Cafe, Comeback Inn, and others. They started off doing weekday gigs but slowly built a strong enough following to earn themselves weekend dates as well as a slot opening up for the Go-Go's at the Mabuhay Gardens in San Francisco in '79. When Ness Aquino took over the Mab, The Rockers became one of his favorite acts, so they'd often get to play the stage there on Friday nights.

At the end of 1979, they went to Mobius Music in San Francisco to record four songs with Oliver DiCicco at the helm. The basic tracks were recorded live on 16-track, 2" tape with very minimal overdubs, and then they laid down the vocals. Though Phil's brother Dennis wasn't in the band, he still played an integral role, acting as manager and producer. He, the band and DiCicco worked together to mix the songs, trying to emulate the sound of a British Invasion recording. The finished tapes were then brought to Bob Carbone in LA to be mastered. The end result is a highly polished, terrific sounding 7" EP, which many regard today as a power pop masterpiece.

Dennis and the band created Alcatraz Records to release the EP. Foggy recollections believe that 1,000 copies were pressed but lost receipts can't verify that. The boys drove to every record outlet they could find to get copies in stores. Tower Records took a big chunk of them and before long they were sold out. The record received positive reviews in BAM and other Bay area papers. They even got some college air play.

Carl left the band after that, so they set out to find a new bass player. They first brought in Sheridan Oakes, who filled the void for a little while, but ultimately was replaced by their long time friend, John San Filippo. At that point a name change was in order and The Finders were born. Cheap Rewards Records will be issuing an official repressing of the Rockers EP as well as an LP collection of Finders material later this summer.